Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mozart's Instruments

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins

Ever wonder what your favorite composer would have sounded like back in the day? What the keyboard that first played the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony sounded like (though it probably wasn't very good, given he never tuned the thing)? What the violin that first played Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" sounded like, or the Harpsichord that Ligeti wrote Hungarian Rock with in mind (Check it out). With the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, we do have access to his violin and a viola, thanks in large part to the Salzburg's Mozarteum Foundation. The violin is not a super powered Stradivarius, but a mellow and intimate sounding Klotz family instrument made circa 1650.  The viola, a dark sounding and very small (hardly larger than a violin) instrument, was likely made by Giovanni Paulo Maggini in 1615.

Mozart's violin

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Violinist on Vibrato

Written by Joe Peterson of Fein Violins

According to Leopold Auer, the OG of the Russian school of violin playing, "The vibrato is primarily a means to heighten effect, to embellish and beautify a singing passage or tone. Unfortunately ... players of stringed instruments frequently abuse this effect ... by doing so, they have called into being a plague of the most inartistic nature." The Black Death of stringed instrument playing!  Oddly, any student of his off the top of my head, let's say Heifetz, Zimbalist, or Elman, had a constant vibrato. But I believe he did have a point, as a phrase cannot have a proper shape when there is something static about it. Leopold Mozart has a similar comparison as Auer's to a physical illness: As he delicately puts it,